Support Our Backyard Beekeepers

Support Our Backyard Beekeepers

Posted & filed under Policy & Advocacy.

Hurray for Honeybee Expansion

Bee pollinatorNectar, Pollen, Honey, Repeat. Thus is the daily routine for one of the hardest working species on the planet, the honeybee. And thanks to the tireless work of the Beekeepers’ Guild of San Mateo County (BG-SMC) and their supporters, including Sustainable San Mateo County, the county can likely expect local expansion of these incredibly productive creatures and their numerous benefits.

Wonderful for the planet, farmer, and taste buds, honeybees add tremendous value to the region. Their flower pollination encourages local and sustainable food sources. And their honey and beeswax satisfies farmers market patrons with flavorful delights, reduced allergies, and the occasional shiny mustache.

But most important, honeybees pollinate $15 billion or 35% of U.S. crops each year and thus drive sustainable agriculture. Quite literally, honeybees are an indispensable partner within a healthy ecosystem and food supply.

What’s the buzz?

Bee hiveUnfortunately, annual hive loss of 45% from pesticides, disease, drought, and lack of forage have made these little pollinators hard to find. These deterrents and onerous local beekeeping restrictions leave gaps in our economy, food supply, and honey jars. On September 14, however, Nickie Irvine from the BG-SMC eloquently persuaded the City of San Mateo Sustainability Commission to relax these restrictions. The proposal will now go forward to the full city council meeting, hopefully in mid-October.

The city currently allows a single, permitted hive per property under 10,000 square feet, and only if 25 feet from the street or dwellings. As such, beekeepers are reluctant to embrace their hobby and educate neighbors. The proposed ordinance, jointly defined by the city staff and BG-SMC would replace zoning restrictions, distance setbacks, and hive limits, with proven conflict resolution mechanisms to address complaints.

With this change, the BG-SMC hopes to reduce local hive loss to 15% over 10 years, a goal consistent with a federal task force formed by President Obama in 2015 which states, “Pollinators are critical to our Nation’s economy, food supply and environmental health.”

Removing the stinger

But aren’t these ‘buzzy-bodies’ a nuisance to the public and burden to the weekend picnicker? Certainly Not! According to Gigi Trabant, President of San Francisco Beekeepers Association, bees do not cause their human neighbors any trouble. At the meeting to support her southerly hobbyists, she reported only one filed complaint over the last ten years which was resolved quickly.

Unlike yellow jacket wasps, attracted to potato salad and BBQ burgers, our friendly workaholics stay close to flowers and focused on their daily routine – Nectar, Pollen, Honey, Repeat.

A resolution as sweet as honey

Don’t fly away yet. Sustainable San Mateo County will be closely watching October’s San Mateo City Council meeting results and let you know how sweet it is. Whatever the decision, here’s what you can do to prevent colony collapse disorder and promote honeybee population growth.

  • Plant native species available at your local nursery
  • Avoid harmful pesticide use and allow weeds to grow
  • Maintain a small source of water on your property
  • Show your support at the San Mateo City Council Meeting on Monday 16 October
  • Attend a Beekeepers Guild-SMC meeting – 1st Thursday each month in San Carlos

UPDATE – San Mateo City Council passed the resolution to relax beekeeping regulations in the city on October 16!

Find more information on the proposed ordinance and honeybee benefits at:

Author Doug Silverstein is a multi-generation Bay Area native and passionate contributor to the Citizens Environmental Council of Burlingame and Sustainable San Mateo County. Doug runs a local tech marketing agency and interests include hiking, travel, music, and family.


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Annual per capita greenhouse gas emissions in California have dropped by 14% from a peak in 2001 of 14.0 metric tons per person to 12.0 metric tons per person in 2013.

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